Good guys wear white hats

by Darren McSorley on July 17th, 2015

Growing up as a kid I remember watching old Cowboy films that were on Sunday morning television. Cowboys and Indians enter the field in a battle of good versus bad. I would cheer on the good guys (who wore white hats) to victory over the bad guys (wearing black hats) [1]. White Hat vs. Black Hat was a simple concept to follow and its symbolisms are still be used in the online world today. The best example of this is the competitive world of Search Engine Optimisation.

The most common question we get asked by clients on every project, “What can I do to make my site rank higher on Google?”. When you put your website online, it’s a fair question. You want to get above your competitors and get traffic coming to your site. A simple Google search on Search Engine Optimization Techniques can return a countless number of methods and theories. However, its dangerous to implement everything you read. You have to be careful to identify what is a 'Black Hat' technique and what is a 'White Hat'.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hats are the bad guys. Techniques that ignore guidelines and prioritize search engines over humans [2]. These are the ways to ‘cheat the system’. A few of the most common examples of these would include:

1. Keyword Stuffing - Over using a keyword in your content to the point where it reads as gibberish or placing it where it doesn’t read naturally to end user [3].

2. Hidden Content - A developer or designer can use some hacky computer code to hide text or links from the front end user. They would do this if they wanted to be indexed for that term, but because it's not relevant to their content – they don’t want to confuse the user. [4]

3. Spam Blogs and Social Media - Create backlinks to your website by posting the link in the comments section of blog posts on other websites. You can find software that crawls the Internet that auto comments on any blog or social network that allows it to[5].

4. Cloaking - Similar to hidden text, cloaking is where to modify a page to look different to search engines than it would to a normal user. [6]

5. Doorway Pages - Pages that are hidden from the website, but only appear on Search Engine results as a way of gaining more traffic. [7]

What is White Hat SEO?

White Hats are the good guys. These are methods and techniques that Google would encourage you implement and will create long-term results.[8] Examples of these would include:

1. Keyword Research and Placement – Write content that is for humans first and search engines second. Include the keywords you wish to be found for, but include them naturally in your content. [9]

2. Relevant Links – Creating backlinks to your site is important, but make sure the links are relevant. Identify websites that hold authority in your industry and try get linked from them. [10]

3. Sitemap – Make sure you have an up to date sitemap which lists all the links available on your website [11].

4. Regularly Update Content – Whenever your content doesn’t get updated it can send out a bad sign to Google indicating the website is no longer in use. Blogs are a great way to keep your site updated with fresh new content on a regular basis [12]

5. Title Tags – Having your keywords in the title tag that appears on Search Engine results can help you get indexed for that tag. [13]


The Google algorithm has over 200 different indicators whenever it comes to indexing content [14]. This is constantly being updated too. With everybody wanting to be number 1 for the search terms in their market space, Search Engine Optimisation is an ongoing process. However, when it comes to optimising your website – just make sure you are using the right techniques whenever it comes to getting higher up the rankings. If you try the black hat methods, any results you would see would be short term. You can’t outsmart Google, and you’ll soon see yourself penalised if you try to [15]. By implementing the Black Hat techniques, you run the risk of getting your site banned from search results. BMW getting penalised back in 2006 is arguably the most high profile example of this [16]. Stay on the white hat side, and you enjoy the benefits of long-term lasting results.


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